This article is aimed mostly at renting and leasing a condo or house in the Chiang Mai area, but can equally be used for other cities in Thailand. If you are looking for information on How to Lease or Rent a Condo or House read this article first.
Renting an Apartment (called Condo here in Thailand, as an apartment tends to be a daily, weekly or monthly complex), it means you are committing to probably a 6 month lease … maybe a year. You want to ensure that before you sign the lease you have checked the little things that over time will make a difference.
Following is a list of things to look for, in no particular ranking of importance, and at the end of the article you can download and print a property checklist that will allow you to compare a couple of different places to each other. If you are considering leasing a house in Thailand the list will also be helpful, as many of the more practical aspects of long term living will be the same.
Chiang Mai Buddy Advantage
Our Online Concierge Service includes connecting with Thai Properties owners and arranging for visits to the properties, lease and contract negotiation and negotiating price vs lease time terms. We use the form and details provided in this article, when connecting customers with landlords who do not speak English. This service is 200 baht per hour for the phone work and 350 per hour to take one of our Thai speaking staff with you to ask these things in Thai language on your behalf.
Many people make the mistake of finding a condo close to the hotel or backpackers they booked for the first few days without first getting to know the area. Make sure you are familiar with the area you first moved to, and other parts of the city. Digital Nomads like certain areas to socialize and work together, Expats prefer areas with other retirees. Do not make the mistake of signing a lease only to later find out you are alone in a non English speaking area which requires long travel times to get to where you want to be.
How long is the Contract? 3 month leases for condos are rare, 6 month and 12 months more available. You want to ensure that the written contract lease time is the same as you where told verbally. There may be security deposit return problems if you did not read the contract period stated in the rental agreement.
What is the monthly rent? Is there a discount for 6 months or 12 months? Most places have a sliding price scale with a longer period of time. If they do not .. why? Have a look on the notice boards in the building and compare the price being asked with other units available in the complex advertised there.
What is the security deposit? Typically it is 2 months rent. Sometimes they will ask for 3 months but you would be foolish to commit this much when there are so many other condos or houses available to rent. Make sure the amount of the security deposit you pay is also put into the contract. If paying a deposit to pre-book the accommodation, get a receipt that says “Part payment of security deposit for xxx property at xxx address”.
Many places will require you to give 30 days notice of your intention to move out of the accommodation. Failure to do this may result in your security deposit being withheld for 30 days. If you are leaving the country or moving cities this means you will loose your deposit because you will not be there to collect it.
Staff Speak English
Do the staff in the lobby speak English? This is essential if you want to organize cleaning, or collect mail or use the Concierge services. Much of the work we do at Chiang Mai Buddy is call the Lobby staff of customers condo’s to explain what the client requires in Thai.
You want to make sure you have a place to park your motorcycle or car without having to pay extra
Restaurant/Coffee Shop/Convenience Store
Are they located on premises? How far away is your nearest food/essentials supply? If you run out of toothpaste or decide your meal requires a beer – how easily are you able to get them? Long term living comfort for many people will require the ability to easily and quickly find things they need without having to plan a big weekly shopping trip. Remember in Thailand a 7/11 sells items for a fraction more than a supermarket. This store will become easily the most relied upon place for essential items and supplies.
Usually renting or leasing a house or a condo in Thailand means it will come with furniture. Make sure the furniture when viewing the property stays on site. Check for any damage and scratches and take photographs. Print them out and have the landlord or agent sign and confirm this.
Most lease agreements include the condo fees – but some do not. Be sure to ask and find out what your real monthly total is going to be
Availability Phone / Internet
Some older places are not equip to provide phone or your own private internet connection. If you rely on the internet, and you are staying long term, it is much better to have your own personal internet connection put in and provide your own WiFi. Many complexes offer WiFi, sometimes exclusive to one provider or from the complex itself (via floor WiFi hotspots). The standard WiFi connections will be slower than getting your own service connected. If this is important to you – check for phone plugs or LAN plugs.
The variation in the per unit cost is huge. Getting your own house and being connected and pay the electric department directly in your own name, the rate is often several baht cheaper than what a complex will charge. This can make a big difference in your electricity bills. Now at the Chiang Mai Buddy headquarters a 4 bedroom house that is maybe 250 sq.m – I am paying the same in electricity bills as I used to in a 45 sq.m condo. Ask to see a previous bill to get an idea.
Same applies for the water (although this bill is indecently affordable in Thailand). Just ask and check.
Elevator wait time
Hardly ever considered, but often an annoying inconvenience after you move in. How many elevators are there? how quickly do they move and how long are you waiting. Most complexes have the lifts return to the ground floor, so that your entry is usually pretty quick. But how long will you wait on the 15th floor to get out?
Regulated AC Units
After your rent, (and food) the biggest expense will be the electricity. If possible get a condo or house that has new AC Units. Not only are they more reliable and economical, they have a temperature thermostat that shuts the unit off. Often you will only need to cool your accommodation down for 20-30 minutes – but falling asleep and having the AC on all night is paying 20 times more than you need to if it had a thermostat. Long term having an AC that shuts itself off when the preset temperature is reached is very useful.
Night Noise & Surroundings
Check the location at Night. Is it close to a bar or nightclub? If it is, you will hear the dull thump thump thump until the early hours of the morning. This is often not as bad as tourist singing karaoke if there is a large restaurant close by, or roosters waking you up at 5am in the morning. The quiet and peace of a condo in a rural area might also come with dogs and noise from animals. The birds in Thailand are loud and noisy and unlike popular media portrays, roosters are crowing all day and night – not just in the early hours of the morning.
Another often over looked aspect when checking a condo before leasing it trying the shower. Often the shower heads are too low, the water heater depending on the wattage will heat the water 20-30 degrees above it’s base water supply temps. This is no problem in the summer but a luke warm shower in the winter can bother some people. Does the temperature gauge work? I myself spent 6 months in one place where my two heat options where … none and boiling. The landlord did not want to replace the unit and the repair man said it worked fine (none of them actually got in naked, they felt with their hand and concluded I was over reacting). I spent 6 months turning the heat off and on and stepping under the water for 20 seconds at a time when the temperature was OK, then backing away as the water started to boil me. Over night guests were not impressed when I forgot to warn them about this in advance.
Check the pressure. You may find a small tinkle of water is fine for you, but if you want a decent shower – you need pressure. If there is a bathtub, see how long it takes to fill. Nothing worse than waiting 20-30 minutes for a bath. Just a tip here while on the subject. Thai people think most westerners smell. They are well aware that in our own countries we spent a life time of washing just once a day. You sweat more in the heat, and you do not notice how badly you smell. Shower twice a day 🙂
Kitchen Hot Water
Thais generally wash their dishes in cold water. Westerners like to use hot. If this is important to you, check to see if the kitchen has hot water. Most of the more modern and expensive places will, as will the refitted condos. But if is another thing we tend to forget about and assume it will be there the first time we rent.
Washing Machine/ Laundry
If the unit has one fantastic, if not where is the closest laundry facility? How much are they charging? Often some condo complexes will be twice as expensive than the place 50 meters down the road. Just check and make sure. You can of course also use the laundry service if there is one provided, and have your cloths washed ironed and smelling much nicer than if you attempted to do it yourself.
Digital TV/English Channels
If you like TV, know that it costs more to have English channels added to the Television package. There is no point having 100 channels if they are all in Thai and you do not understand them. Every TV made in the last 5 years or so will have an HDMI and USB slots for you to plug in devices and your computer. Check them. I once took a place solely on the huge flat-screen television that was there fantasizing about my huge new second laptop monitor, only to find the computer resolution was 800×600 (very bad) and the USB only played music and not videos.
Title speaks for itself really. Do you want one? ask before you even leave to see a place.
Bugs and insects are everywhere in Thailand. Even on the 15th floor you might have to use some bug spray. Is the place near water? then you will have mosquitoes While it is something you eventually get used to, when you first arrive if insects bug you – have a look at what is flying and crawling around when you visit.
Plates and Glasses provided
Does the Condo you are about to lease have cups, plates and spoons? While not a big deal to pop off to a Tesco Lotus and buy some, for the short time renter it is nice if they are already provided. Have a look, if there is nothing there ask. Often the landlord will bring you something in from home to get the place rented.
24 Hr Desk
Is there one? What happens if you you take advantage of all the cheap booze in Thailand (or just forget) your key-card and keys? Having a 24 hour desk (which is pretty common in the bigger complexes) is a great convenience. Nothing worse than having no one to help you until the morning.
Does the place have a guard (or guards) and/or CCTV cameras. Can anybody walk in or is a key-card required? Is this important to you? Just a tip, not many westerner bother to befriend the security people – DO IT! Get to know their names, bring them a can of beer or an ice cream on a hot day. The dividends of having the staff of the complex know you and like you will pay off for you in the long run, especially if you are losing your keys all the time.
Room Cleaning Price
Is this included once a week in the price or something that you have to do yourself or pay extra for? Do you want to do it yourself? Maybe the landlord will insist that you hire the complex staff because they want the cleaning to be done properly. Ask if there is any cleaning included, or required. Some of the nicer units the owners will want to maintain the value of their properties and insist that you pay extra to have someone clean the condo you are leasing.
If you want to cook yourself, you will need a decent sized fridge. Usually they are new and economical, but an old one that does not run well will end up costing you in electricity. Does it have a freezer? Don’t assume, open it up and have a look, many fridge freezers here are small.
Soft Bed Mattress
Thai people like firm beds. And firm beds are cheaper. If you like a firm bed that’s great, if you like a soft one, do not forget to lie on the bed. You might want to rattle and shake a little (OK, I mean simulate sex) to see if the bed moves, or makes a noise. Sometimes condo walls are thin, sometimes the beds support is lacking. Is there a ceiling fan above the bed? I have been struck in the eye standing up on a bed before. Does the bed have a change of sheets provided? And if you are single, one of those body length pillows is a fantastic thing to hug at night
How well is the condo complex maintained? Can you see cleaners working all the time? are there bricks or broken pieces of tile around? The care the management take to maintain the complex is going to directly reflect how quickly repairs will be done and your concerns met. The maintenance is a function of the monthly association fees. Sometimes complexes are half empty or have condo owners who visit for one month out of the year. They tend to not pay on time which can affect the quality of the building being maintained.